Worldcon Wayback Machine: Monday at MagiCon (1992) Day Five

I’m guessing this is a SFPA member group photo. Top: Ned Brooks, Tom Feller, Guy H. Lillian III, Patrick Malloy Middle: Barbara Mott, Janice Gelb, Penny Frierson, Gary Louie, Naomi Fisher, Eve Ackerman, Howard Rosenblatt Bottom: Ruth Judkowitz

INTRODUCTION: Twenty-five years ago MagiCon was held in Orlando, Florida. A great con, and I thought it would be fun to reprint the report I ran in File 770. Here is the fifth of five daily installments.

The Worldcon was held in the Orange County Convention and Civic Center, The Peabody Hotel, and The Clarion Hotel.

ANOTHER MANIC MONDAY: Every day fans plodded through the humidity toward an oasis of air conditioning past two electro-mechanical signs displaying animated graphics of the MagiCon title, and the countdown to a shuttle launch. The rhythm of the pieces forming the display sounded vaguely familiar because the slow clatter beginning each cycle that rapidly accelerated until the shuttle had “lifted off” sounded a lot like the marching aliens in an Atari 2600 “Space Invaders” game.

Sign outside the convention center, with the Peabody Hotel in the background. Photo by Carol Porter.

The last morning of MagiCon I entered the convention center and saw, in the distance, Geri Sullivan carrying a fully-inflated brontosaurus over one shoulder toward the Fanzine Lounge.

Half curtained-off from huckster traffic by poles and drapes, the lounge boasted its own beer bar (shades of Brighton), a couple of couches and several circular banquet tables with chairs. All weekend long fanzine fans had kept an oasis of Corflu in the heart of MagiCon, hosting their own receptions, auctions and discussions.

Fan Lounge. Kurt Erichsen in rainbow outfit.

Here you could find Walt Willis, James White, Andy Hooper, Ted White, Arnie Katz, Timothy Lane and Vincent Clarke’s shirt. British fanzine fan Vincent Clarke couldn’t attend in person, but with Geri’s help there was a sense he was constantly engaged in the lounge’s most interesting activities. Geri Sullivan showed everyone the t-shirt imprinted with Vince’s color photo and asked them to autograph it. Vince even boasted his share of the omnipresent con ribbons. Andy Hooper asked about the kelly green ribbon. Geri beamed, “Vince shot a hole-in-one on the Willis golf course!”

Hooper turned to Walt Willis. “I know one under par is a birdie and two under is an eagle — what is it when you shoot three under par?” he asked. Said Willis, “An albatross.”

Geri Sullivan wearing the Vincent Clarke message shirt. Photo by Mark Olson. (My own signature is on the right-side sleeve…)

In another conversation Timothy Lane worked in a typical Fosfax conservative touch by answering someone’s question: “World SF is an organization of professional people who are really upset that the Soviet Union has gone away.”

MONDAY BUSINESS MEETING. Kevin Standlee reported the 1995 NASFiC Site-Selection Voting Results:  381 ballots were cast, and Atlanta won. (Write-ins were received for “Hold the election next year” and “Hawaii”.)

BIDDER AUTOMATIC RUNOFF
1ST 2ND 3RD
ATLANTA 152 172 184
I-95 IN ‘95 92 100 135
NONE OF THE ABOVE 80 93
NEW YORK 51
WRITE-INS 2
SUBTOTAL 377 365 319
NO PREFERENCE 4 16 62
TOTAL BALLOTS 381 381 381

EVEN MORE PROGRAM: At the end of “Rejection Slips and Other Downers”, Ginger Curry, John F. Moore and Laura Resnick listened as Del Stone, Jr. explained how naive he was when he submitted his first manuscript to a prozine. He got the manuscript back with a form letter. “It was rejected, but my reaction was, ‘Ben Bova’s autograph — wow!”

Evelyn Leeper upstaged the “Lost Art of the Newzine” panel by sitting in the front row wearing her “For all I know, I might have won a Hugo” button, satirizing the mixup at the Hugo Awards.

Richard Lynch, Laurie Mann, Mike Glyer and Timothy Lane discuss “The Lost Art of the Newzine.”. Photo by Carol Porter

A remarkable number of past and present Tor managing editors joined the panel for “Magical Practices of the Publizandi,” a tongue-in-cheek panel that disguised insights worthy of Margaret Mead by offering them in the language of a typical 1930’s travelogue. Survivors (of Tor and other houses) Jane Jewell, Beth Meacham, Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, Tappan King and moderator Sarah Goodman enjoyed themselves hugely. Tappan King droned mystically, “The pitch derives from the package, the package derives from the book…” When someone naively asked, “Is someone actually supposed to read the book?”, Tappan King doubletalked, “We’ve found that editors who have actually read the book cannot give us the hook.”

Tappan King in 1987.

Striving for needless clarity, Sarah Goodman asked panelists to illustrate the “hook” by devising one for Stranger in a Strange Land as if it were being published for the first time. Tappan King smirked that behind the “hook” was editors’ superstition that if you gathered together enough previously-sold objects then you can convince the sales force to hustle your project. So a “hook” for Stranger would come out: “THE WAR OF THE WORLDS MEETS THE NEW TESTAMENT.” Beth Meacham liked: “COUNTER-CULTURE MESSIAH FROM ANOTHER PLANET.” Someone added, “He came from another planet for love, sex and cannibalism.”

King said there are ritual sacrifices that must be made by the publizandi from time to time. “The managing editor is the most obvious person for that function,” he said. Teresa Nielsen Hayden said, “Being managing editor for Tor is like being drummer for Spinal Tap,” and sent the audience into a frenzy of laughter. She and Meacham remembered ritual humor objects handed down through a succession of Tor managing editors.

Teresa narrated the hilariously impossible demands made on managing editors, from the hallucinatory sales estimate forms required long before orders are ever solicited, to eleventh-hour production changes she supposed publishers must believe the “book fairies” will bring about. Just pausing for breath after the last remark, Teresa watched, horrified, as TOR’s publisher Tom Doherty and entourage passed the door, turned back and marched in. Doherty sat in fingernail-biting fascination as Teresa dissolved into giggles. Beth Meacham adroitly rescued the moment, opening her mouth about a completely different subject in a tone of voice as though she was responding to something Teresa had just said.

Someone from the program staff held up a sign at the back of the room that read, “5 Minutes” when it was almost time for the panel to end. Meacham corrected, “Usually, a single digit is spelled out.” Teresa added, “And minute should not be capitalized because it isn’t a sentence.” The staffer paused, then asked, “Y’all need any more water in here?”

MagiCon chair Joe Siclari. Photo by Mark Olson.

THE GRIPE SESSION — NOT! Joe Siclari doesn’t understand how gripe sessions are supposed to run: he is blessed. At the Worldcon gripe session they take the lid off emotions that have been stewing four or five days. You get Malcolm Edwards trying to explain how L. Ron Hubbard bought the pocket program. You see people calculating whether to gang-tackle Mike Phillips because it looks like in another split-second he’s going to charge John Guidry.

What you never see is a gripe session like MagiCon’s where seven out of the first ten comments are directing credit to people who worked different areas of the convention, and out of the other three, the worst gripe is about the tiny size of names on membership badges! People complimented everything from babysitting and childrens’ programming to art show security and handicapped access. It was a Worldcon chairman’s heaven on earth!

From the Gripe Session Joe dashed to Closing Ceremonies, which were reported for File 770 (and the daily zine) by Laurie Mann.

CLOSING CEREMONIES. By Laurie Mann —

MagiCon’s chair Joe Siclari opened closing ceremonies by introducing Spider Robinson who quipped, “I’d like to thank the other MagiCon guests, Jack Chalker, Vincent Van Gogh and Walter Miller.”

Siclari briefly recapped MagiCon’s origin as a bid as in the ConFederation Program Book (1986). He thanks the bid’s founder, Becky Thomson, and all the division directors by name. He had the area heads rise en masse to applause by the attendees.

Events czar Steve Whitmore interrupted the proceedings to bring Vincent DiFate to the podium. Vincent grabbed Joe’s mike and told him to sit down to be awarded. “After all, a crew is only as good as its captain. Think of this as a testimonial (not a memorial, though I’m sure a few of you want him dead.”) Di Fate presented Joe with a white box, causing the standard “ticking” jokes in the audience. The box contained a commemorative MagiCon plaque with footsteps in it, and a Mickey Mouse “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” doll to fill the footsteps with. Joe was almost speechless, shocking many people in the audience.

Dave Kyle came up to the podium and received Joe’s thanks on behalf of First Fandom. Kyle said, “The dinosaurs lived for millions of years. Chairing a Worldcon is like a geologic period. We First Fandom dinosaurs leave hibernation long enough to attend Worldcon. We get rejuvenated at each Worldcon, but we can’t help but look around in wonder and ask… My ghod, what did we create?” (applause and laughter) “And I’m glad we did.”

MagiCon Publications. Jon Gustafson edited and designed the Program Book. I edited, and Dave Ratti designed the Progress Reports.

Joe announced it was time to close the time capsule. To commemorate the 50th Worldcon, MagiCon collected material for a time capsule, destined to be opened at the 100th Worldcon. Many, many items were put in, including:

  • Barrayar, this year’s Hugo-winning novel;
  • MagiCon souvenirs, pins, patches, and publications;
  • Worldcon bidding material, including Glasgow water bottles and a Scotch box, ConFrancisco kazoo, LA in ’84 key rings, Chicon VI tissues, and material from I-95-in-’95, Louisville, and Australia bids;
  • Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (edited for Noreascon 2 by Bruce Pelz);
  • Duct tape;
  • First Fandom card from Dave  Kyle;
  • Lots of fanzines, magazines, and buttons (including the “Clue,” “For All I Know I Might Have Won A Hugo,” and “None of the Above” buttons);
  • China Coast chopsticks;
  • Sci Fi Channel material;
  • Helicon flask;
  • Westercon sash;
  • Kate Bush CD;
  • Bow tie from Ben Yalow;
  • Super Hugo book;
  • Joe Siclari’s signature hat;
  • Hotel keys;
  • Charlie Seelig’s MagiCon badge;
  • Spider Robinson’s guitar pick;
  • Orlando Sentinel for September 7, 1992, which included a piece on MagiCon;
  • Many ribbon, including a “Dave Kyle Says I Can Sit Here” ribbon with Francis Ford Coppola’s signature;
  • Hugo pin and statue;
  • 7 for 77 badge (historical note: ’77 WOULD have been the first Orland Worldcon except hotel trouble forced the con to move to Miami);
  • Golf ball and golf club;
  • “Seth’s balls” (never did see that, but that’s what it SOUNDED like he said!!);
  • NASA material, including a picture of thee first space shuttle crew “Priority” envelope;
  • Glitz from the Costumer’s Guide;
  • Complete set of Slant (Walt Willis’ fanzine);
  • ConFrancisco gavel.

Adding material to the box went on for awhile and the audience grew restive, so Joe eventually locked the box, and, using a golf club as a gavel, declared MagiCon over.

He turned things over to Dave Clark, ConFrancisco chair, who immediately told the audience, “I feel fine, thank you.” [This was dark humor, referencing Clark having succeeded the late Terry Biffel as chair.]

Many members of the ConFrancisco committee entered in costume and with flags and marched around the hall to the strains of “ConFrancisco, Here We Come.” Dave then presented a slide show, part hard-sell tourist and part fannish, on San Francisco and the next Worldcon. The slide of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory garnered the most applause. The ConFrancisco committee then passed fannish fortune cookies through the audience.

As I was leaving, I noticed Program Ops Head Janice Gelb’s button, “And now I’m going to Disney World!” [A play on a typical commercial involving the latest Super Bowl quarterback.]

 

AFTER THE CLOSING CEREMONIES: Did you wonder what happened to the Time Capsule after they finished with it at Closing Ceremonies? Jay Kay Klein got an unintentional look behind-the-scenes.

Jay Kay loaned Joe Siclari some full-size photos of pros to exhibit at the con, which Joe intended to return after closing. But in the heat of the moment everything was swept into the big cooler — Jay Kay’s photos and Siclari’s convention notes included — and it was sealed off. Joe had to have his notes back and in reality the capsule hadn’t been sealed yet: Steve Whitmore was making a catalog of everything contributed. He dug down under the piles and retrieved the photos and notes.

SUMMARY: MagiCon delighted everyone. People will remember it as one of the better Worldcons for several reasons.

First, the committee set reasonable expectations. The committee never conducted themselves in a way that promised to deliver the world, or even the “best Worldcon ever.” What they promised was to work hard and make very creative and intelligent use of their finite resources, which they did.

Second, their modest and friendly approach attracted a lot of help from worldwide fandom. They realistically estimated what Florida convention fans could handle then recruited outside help. Free of the historic paranoia of committees who fear any outside helpers will take over, MagiCon executives knew the “outsiders” as friends of long-standing and were so welcoming that, like Tom Sawyer, they made people practically grateful for a chance to help paint their picket fence.

Some fans consider MagiCon a better con than Noreascon 3, but if Magicon delivered more it’s only because the 1992 committee stood on the shoulders of giants, foremost, the people who ran Noreascon 3. Priscilla Pollner [Olson] played a major role in organizing the program. The theme park Concourse advanced ideas originated in 1989. People from all areas of fandom were unusually generous in their contribution of ideas and energy.

Third, MagiCon’s leadership made very sophisticated use of fanhistory as a premise for exhibits and programs. Perhaps it seemed an obvious goal at the 50th Worldcon, but fans always want a con that reminds them of their historic identity and of all the emotions that bring our scattered tribe together on Labor Day. By filling that need with in dramatic opening ceremonies, a DiFate historic art retrospective, a time capsule, diverse fannish programming that balanced the “trade show” feel of so many pro panels, MagiCon left members well satisfied. No group left feeling taken for granted, from people who are still wistfully remembering the 1949 Cinvention to first-time Worldcon attendees hoping they’d at least find some Star Trek stuff in the Dealer’s Room.

The con’s pleasing personality could only have come from organizers who had looked into their own hearts for what people value in a Worldcon, then spared no effort to deliver it. …And by sending “thank-you” notes to the workers, department heads left them actually willing to think about doing it again!

This is Fanac.org’s photo caption: “Chairman Joe tries to make a putt before his beeper rings again. Actually, Joe has no memory of playing the golf course. See what a Worldcon does to the brain of its chairman.” Photo by Carol Porter.

11 thoughts on “Worldcon Wayback Machine: Monday at MagiCon (1992) Day Five

  1. I wish I had gone…but I only had the vaguest idea of fandom at that stage, since it was about this time that I started to read Locus regularly.

  2. Ironically, I’m compelled to edit this;

    “Someone from the program staff held up a sign at the back of the room that read, “5 minutes” when it was almost time for the panel to end. Meacham corrected, “Usually, a single digit is spelled out.” Teresa added, “And minute should not be capitalized because it isn’t a sentence.” ”

    So, given Teresa’s comment, shouldn’t it be “… a sign at the back of the room that read, ‘5 Minutes’…”

  3. It’s not a SFPA group photo — Gary Louie, Howard Rosenblatt and Naomi Fisher never were members of the apa. I’ll have to ask Guy what was going on… and why I was never told about it!

  4. I remember telling Vance that I thought the mechanical sign sounded the way I thought a wink machine (from The Blue World) would. I can’t point to specific instances, but I remember that some of the displays were designed by Donnie Eastlake (fka Donald E. Eastlake IV), age 13; the accelerating rocket you describe certainly sounds more imaginative than I’d expect the convention center to have come up with.

    I remember “…Publizandi” — one of the best panels I’ve ever been to. IIRC, the panel all walked in wearing pith helmets.

    typos? (in Laurie’s story):
    – “7 for 77 bad” (s/b “badge”?)
    – “garnered the most applaud” (s/b “applause”?)
    “Seth’s balls” were a running joke for people who didn’t have to worry about safety — hundreds of miniature Super Ball(tm?)s that got out of hand at Noreascon 3, repeated at Orlando despite Operations’ best attempts at suppression. (My partner still has examples.)

    edit: @Martin Wooster +1; even with the things that went wrong or dark (I remember announcing Fritz Leiber’s death) I have lots of great memories of Magicon — thanks for bringing them back.

  5. Mike, thanks for re-running this. It brought back a surge of memories. And also again told me about so much of the con that I missed. There were so many people that worked hard to make some of our plans come out correctly. When I read your report when it was originally printed, I got my egoboo from the paragraph about how I didn’t know how to run a Gripe Session!

    I still have the Time Capsule! Don’t plan to wait for the 100th Worldcon but maybe an upcoming Worldcon would like to open it. It’s ..already been multiple fannish generations.

  6. Chip: Thanks for catching those typos. Pour yourself some more vintage appertainment!

    Tom: You’ve convinced me. I have capitalized the “M” in minutes to reproduce the uncorrected text.

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